Patterns of species richness reflect the balance between speciation and extinction over the evolutionary history of life. These processes are influenced by the size and geographical complexity of regions, conditions of the environment, and attributes of individuals and species. Diversity within clades also depends on age and thus the time available for accumulating species. Estimating rates of diversification is key to understanding how these factors have shaped patterns of species richness. Several approaches to calculating both relative and absolute rates of speciation and extinction within clades are based on phylogenetic reconstructions of evolutionary relationships. As the size and quality of phylogenies increases, these approaches will find broader application. However, phylogeny reconstruction fosters a perceptual bias of continual increase in species richness, and the analysis of primarily large clades produces a data selection bias. Recognizing these biases will encourage the development of more realistic models of diversification and the regulation of species richness.